Most people understand that drinking plenty when working out is essential for keeping you healthy and hydrated. However, 40-43% of Americans between 20-50 years old consistently don’t drink enough water, even when they’re exercising. Many reasons can be given for not drinking enough water, with one survey finding 42% of American workers simply don’t feel thirsty, closely followed by 41% preferring other drinks, like coffee. But our bodies are made up of about 60% water, so it’s essential to replenish it so that everyday bodily functions that keep us in good working order can occur.
How The Body Uses Water
The body uses water for most of its functions, from moving waste out of our organs to regulating muscle action while exercising. When it comes to fitness, water helps muscles, joints and connective tissues to move correctly and keeps the lungs, heart and other organs working well while you’re exerting energy. Water will also reduce the chance of muscle cramps and fatigue during a workout, meaning you can exercise for longer to improve your fitness. In terms of losing weight, the body uses water to metabolize carbohydrates, stored fats and fats from food and drinks, so drinking more will result in burning more weight off. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout all the stages of a workout to get the best results. Drinking plenty before you start to exercise will prepare your body for a workout, drinking during will help to keep you maintain hydration and drinking afterwards will replenish any lost fluids.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
One way to know how much you should drink is to weigh yourself in pounds and half the number. That number is the amount of water you should drink in ounces. The 8 glasses a day rule is the most common answer and is the equivalent to 2 liters or half a gallon, but there are a lot of other factors to consider. Age, size, activity levels, temperature and your health all affect how much water your body needs to function at its optimum. A hot day, exerting energy and sweating in general will result in you needing to increase your water consumption. Pregnant and breastfeeding woman need to drink more to support the demand their body is putting on them. As we age we tend to move less, so elderly people can drink less, but at least 1 liter a day is still recommended. Carrying a reusable bottle with you will encourage you to drink more throughout the day.
Signs Of Dehydration
There are many symptoms and signs that you may need to drink more water. Many experts rely on the urine test. Check the color of your urine each time you go to the toilet, if it’s dark you need to drink a lot more. The lighter and clearer your urine the more hydrated you are. Feeling thirsty and having a dry mouth are some of the most obvious symptoms that you’re dehydrated, but headaches, dizziness and less frequent urination are also common signs. Being dehydrated by only 1% can have a negative effect on your mood, make you feel sluggish and lead to problems with concentration. Water aids digestion, so if you’re dehydrated you can easily become bloated and constipated, which can be very uncomfortable and add a few inches to your waist and a couple pounds to the scale.
Detox water is the latest trend when it comes to hydrating your body. It’s water that has been infused with flavors from fruits, vegetables and herbs, remaining low calorie but increasing the nutritional benefits of the water. These benefits claim to assist with weight loss, boost your immune system and improve your digestive health, depending on what you infuse the water with. However, some claim that the benefits come from the water itself, rather than what it’s infused with because it’s difficult to get the nutrients into the water. Whether it’s down to simply drinking more than you usually would because you’re following the latest trend, or because it works, most people who have tried it see a positive change in their body. It’s easy to make your own detox water at home, be creative with different flavors to discover tastes that will make you want to drink more.
For much more on detox water, read our complete feature.
Does Water Help You Lose Weight?
Losing weight is a big part of improving fitness for a lot of people. Whether you’re carrying some extra pounds from a special event or you’re on a long-term mission to hit your goal weight, most people want to see a smaller number on the scales. It’s a normal sight to see people carrying a bottle of water or stopping at the water fountain while they’re working out as it keeps the body cool and replenishes the fluid lost through sweat. But can drinking water aid you in losing weight, even when you’re not exercising? Quite simply, the answer is yes.
Losing Weight and Proper Hydration: The Research
Water will help to suppress your appetite, meaning you’ll consume less calories. A study found that overweight women who drank 500ml of water before each meal, 3 times a day for 8 weeks had a lower body weight and body fat percentage, illustrating that drinking before meals makes you feel fuller, so you will eat less calories. Research has also found that drinking cold water can temporarily increase the body’s resting energy expenditure, burning 2-3 percent more calories in the following 90 minutes than usual. This is because the body will use energy to heat the water up for digestion. 2-3 percent may not seem like much but drinking water as regularly as you should will soon yield results.
Water Versus Fitness Drinks
Sports drinks contain electrolytes, carbohydrates and good old-fashioned water. Electrolytes help to regulate nerves and muscles; the carbohydrates restore energy in the body and the water hydrates. One type of electrolyte is sodium, which is the most important when exercising, especially for over 60 minutes. Sodium is what’s responsible for avoiding cramps and regulates the concentration of bodily fluids, making it essential for long workouts. There are some extra calories in sports drinks compared to drinking water, so if you’re not exercising for more than 60 minutes then it’s not worth consuming them. Your body won’t usually need the carbohydrates or electrolytes from sports drinks for shorter exercise either. Whichever you choose, staying hydrated is especially important when working out and it’s recommended that you drink 1 cup for every 15 minutes of exercise to keep your body hydrated.
Staying Hydrated On The Slopes
In 2016 ski slopes saw 53.6 million visits by America for either skiing or snowboarding. Skiing is one of the most costly activities to participate in, with skis costing $2,500 and money needed for traveling, insurance, an instructor and accommodation, to name a few. For those who love hitting the slopes, studies have a correlation between skiing and dehydration as many people forget to drink water when they’re in a colder climate. Skiers also stated that they didn’t want to stop for toilet breaks or would rather have a hot drink. One questionnaire of 130 skiers aged 18-82 found that over 90% reported not drinking at all while skiing and most were extremely dehydrated, despite having drinks in their backpacks. The repercussions of this dehydration were shown in a 3-hour study by Seifert and Wales who compared ski performance between those drinking sports drinks and those not drinking at all. People drinking sports drinks averaged four ski runs in the 3rd hour, while those not drinking averaged 2.5. Getting involved in winter sports can cost you a small fortune, so ensure you’re hydrated to fully enjoy the experience and get the most from your time on the slopes.
Maintaining good hydration is important at every stage in your life and at every point throughout your day. Staying active and exercising regularly plays a big role in keeping you fit and healthy, and drinking water is a key part to that. Replenishing lost fluids after exercising will reduce muscle cramps, keep joints, connective tissues and organs working correctly and reduce fatigue. This will improve your performance, endurance and accuracy when exercising, giving you a better workout. Good hydration before exercising will also help to prepare your body for the workout and drinking throughout will help to maintain water levels in your body, making it easier to replenish fluids afterwards. Whether you opt for tap water, detox water or a sports drink, all are a great option to maintain hydration throughout your workout.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.